In the wake of Cameron’s historic defeat (which of course is mostly Tony Blair’s fault), Chris Dillow makes a good point: he considers Lyndon Johnson’s political success* and says that it
rested on not so much on them taking the moral high ground – the best that can be said for LBJ’s “moral compass” is that it wasn’t quite as defective as Nixon’s – but on [his] ability to twist arms, and appeal to low motives.
This, Dillow suggests, provides an illuminating contrast with David Cameron:
there’s a tragic aspect to Cameron. He has thought of politics as (by his own lights) a noble venture – as when he pushed through gay marriage and in his desire to stop crimes against humanity. But politics isn’t just that. Sometimes, to win a moral crusade you need immoral means. Leadership isn’t about being like Martin Luther King, but being like Lyndon Johnson.
It isn’t a warming thought, but perhaps he is right.
Update. Tory rebel Sarah Wollaston had a cutting response to Cameron’s attempts at aggression:
It’s not about us being a nation of appeasers or apologists. Britain isn’t just turning its back, we are delivering enormous amounts of humanitarian aid but we just do not feel that humanitarian aid in this instance should come in the form of cruise missiles.
*This is good on LBJ.
From The Guardian:
The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, will say today that the Conservative party is the heir to Tony Blair’s reforms of hospitals and schools, not Gordon Brown.
(A rather better monument than Tony is likely to get from his heirs, taken in a church in Milan.)
First reaction: yes, Tony’s policies are not policies of the left. Second reaction: in saying that, does he imply that being Tony’s heir is a good thing? I just wish I believed El Gordo agreed with this statement too…
Oh dear. First (it appears) Tony tells his Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to spare long time pet BAE from prosecution over possible corruption in a Saudi arms deal — and it turns out they are going to get their day in court anyway thanks to a different affair, this time in Tanzania. Then the cash for honours story rolls back into town with a vengeance raising questions yet again about Goldsmith’s role in deciding on possible prosecutions for Tony and his friends in this matter. Finally even the constitutional affairs minster, the usually supine Harriet Harman, calls for the Attorney General’s advice to the government be published as a matter of course. Let’s just accept, shall we, that 500 years of precedent does not naturally produce the optimal structure in all cases. Just possibly having a single individual who is both a member of the government sitting in cabinet and advising on legal matters and chief law officer with ultimate responsibility for deciding on prosecutions might conceivably be a conflict of interest… As usual in these matters, you can’t do much until the organisational structure is serviceable.
So yet again we have an egregious rise in fares on public transport. Who do we blame for the absurd state of affairs in our public transport system? Those who set the rules. Tony, Gordon, and Stephen (Ladyman – yes, I know no one has heard of him — he’s only Minister of Transport — nothing important). I blame you. I’ll never vote for you or your successors. That’s my new year’s resolution and, unlike going to the gym or giving up alcohol, it will be remarkably easy to keep.
‘What matters is what works’ Tony Blair once declared. I really believe that is true: sadly Tony doesn’t, and I suspect never did. As Ann Clwyd is ejected from her position as Chairperson of the parlimentary labour party thanks to her support for Blair, it is worth highlighting five of the worse examples of Labour’s doctrine pursuit of policies despite them obviously not working:
- Iraq. No more need be said than that one word.
- PFI. Wow, wouldn’t it be really great to pay more for the same public services and lock the NHS, Transport for London and many other bodies into inflexible, long term contracts? Anyone who claims Gordon Brown is an economic genius should be forced to have ‘PFI’ branded on their forehead so they never forget the disasterous waste caused by this terrible idea.
- Faith Schools. We want a more tolerant society with higher standards of education. So let’s set up schools which exclude some faiths, enhance the sense of being special of others, suck up education resources that could be spent on improving ordinary schools, and give their governance to those verging on monomania.
- Replacing Trident. We do not need to spend £25B on nuclear weapons now, honestly we don’t. This is all about Labour appearing tough on defense: it has nothing to with what the country actually needs.
- The Internal Market in the NHS. No one who had actually spent any time trading the financial markets would ever suggest they are efficient allocators of resources so why on earth does the government think the market will magically solve the problems of the NHS?
None of these policies was obviously unworkable at the beginning: foolish or misguided perhaps, but not obviously unworkable. They all subsequently have been proved not to work. Yet still the government sticks with them, demonstrating the dominance of ideology over efficacy in their thinking.
Selected points from a most amusing list ALL I EVER NEEDED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM BLAKE’s SEVEN directly relevant to today’s Labour leadership:
* Trust is only dangerous when you have to rely on it.
* It is frequently easier to be honest when you have nothing to lose.
* The art of leadership is delegation.
* All that patience gets you is older.
* Show me someone who believes in something, and I will show you a fool.
* He who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken.
* Dignity, at all costs, dignity.
* The choice is very simple — either you can fight, or you can die.
* In the end, winning is the only safety.
* Power usually makes its own rules.
* Nobody is indispensible.
* Everyone’s entitled to one really bad mistake.
There is an article in today’s paper saying that despite advice to the contrary, Tony Blair is going to give the go-ahead to new nuclear powerstations*. I find this deeply depressing for a couple of reasons. Firstly what on earth is the point of having experts examine an issue and prepare a thoroughly researched report if the prime minister is going to overrule them because he thinks he knows best? Then there are the usually distasteful overtones created by the inordinate weight the nuclear industry has compared with other forms of power that do not create a 700 million year headache (the half life of U-235). And of course this is all in the context of trying to decide what the best form of power generation is without any idea of the real decommissioning and clean-up costs of fission reactors. The sooner we figure out fusion power, the better…
* Trying to write a sentence where all the words are short enough so that they fit beside the picture (Didcot power station, taken from the train), is an interesting constraint. Perhaps an Oulipolian novel with no word longer than, 4?, 5?? characters might be interesting?